Autocross FAQs

Have some questions?

No problem! We are here to help. This page contains some of the most frequently asked questions about autocross. But if you don’t find the answers your looking for, there are plenty of other options! You can join our Facebook Group and ask other members, or contact one of the board members. We’re always looking for more fellow car enthusiasts to join us at events.

 

What is autocross?

Autocross events are driving skill contests that emphasize your driving ability and your car’s handling. This is accomplished by driving a course that is designated by traffic cones on a low hazard location, such as a parking lot or inactive airstrip. In SCCA, the event is often referred to as a Solo event as there is no wheel-to-wheel driving in this form of car competition.

Are there other names for autocross?

Solo II: the term the SCCA uses to refer to SCCA-sanctioned autocross events

Gymkhana: a term used in the US during the 1960s; Now the term usually refers to gimmick events wherein drivers have to do odd things

Auto slalom: the term used in Canada

Who autocrosses?

Most autocrossers are driving/racing enthusiasts who enjoy motorsports competition. In fact, a large portion of participants don’t even own what you would consider a race car, and that holds true in the Susquehanna Region SCCA. Many people race the same car that they drive on the street. A smaller portion of our club are serious road racers who drive at autcross events to practice technique. But, most are just like you! They’re just people with a need for speed.

Why autocross?

Well, why not? Really, autocross is a very inexpensive, relatively safe way to experience racing. It helps you hone your driving skills and limitations, and discover your car’s capabilities. Because it provides a safe environment to drive at 10/10ths, it also helps develop your driving ability, making you a better, safer driver on the road. Many would-be race drivers use it as a jump point into the sport of road racing. But most would agree that the greatest thrill is the challenge of beating your own time. It’s just a whole lot of fun!

What kind of car do I have to have to be able to autocross?

Just about any car in good mechanical condition is eligible for our autocross events. Anything from Corvettes to Toyotas to Subarus are allowed to run in Solo. As long as your car passes our tech (safety) inspection before the event begins, and is not on the exclusion list or prone to rollover (mostly SUVs), you’re probably able to run it.

Can I just come to an event and watch? Is there a fee to watch?

Yes, you are welcome and encouraged to come out just to watch an event and chat with the competitors. You’ll need to sign a waiver sheet for insurance purposes, but there is no fee to come out and be a spectator.

What class is my car in?

SCCA® Solo® has many categories divided into classes for vehicles. Those categories include:

  • Stock – This category includes mass-produced, common vehicles that may be “daily drivers” (cars used for normal, everyday driving). Stock Category cars compete in their “factory” configuration with a minimal number of allowances (not requirements).
  • Street Touring® – This class is a fairly new class and is geared towards cars with common bolt-on modifications. Things like cold-air intakes, headers, lowering springs, etc. This is the only category that does not allow DOT competition R-compound tires – only high performance tires with a UTQG treadwear rating of 140 or higher are allowed (found on the tire sidewall).
  • Street Prepared – This is the original Solo® “street” class, sometimes called a “bolt-on” class. Any fuel and ignition system is allowed along with any suspension springs and shocks/struts as long as they are fitted into their original location. Things like turbo/superchargers must remain the same. There is no limit on wheel size or DOT tire sizes.
  • Street Modified – This is the top tier of the “street” classes. This class allows engine swaps as long as the engine is made by the same manufacturer as the car. You may also add turbo/superchargers, camshaft upgrades, and any suspension upgrades as long as it uses the factory attachment points.
  • Prepared – This class is generally for non-streetable cars. Things like gutted interiors and racing slicks are a big give away. Most things are allowed in this class and is relied on weight more than anything.
  • Modified – They are usually special built competition vehicles and most of them resemble an open-wheel Indy car or a closed-wheel LeMans sports racer. DM and EM cars may have started life on the streets, but just about any engine, drivetrain, or suspension is permitted. Supercharged rotary engines and V-8 engines are seen in 1700-pound EM machines and powerful 4-cylinders are common in 1300-pound DM lightweights.
Do I need special competition tires?

No! All that is required for tires is that they be in good condition, with no cord or belts showing or cracks in the sidewall. Tires must have a measurable tread depth.

What do I need to bring with me to an event?

To run you need a valid driver’s license and an appropriate helmet. However, the Susquehanna Region does have a few loaner helmets at events so you don’t have to go out and buy a new helmet before you’ve tried autocross out. Some other things that are recommended are a tire pressure gauge, appropriate clothes, sun block, plenty of water, etc. and your will to have fun. If you don’t have your own magnetic or vinyl numbers on your car, make sure to bring painters tape so you can affix the provided numbers to your vehicle.

What kind of helmet do I need?

You can find all of the rules for Solo from the SCCA on the Autocross Rules page of this site.

How should I prepare my car for a race?

Your car should be well maintained, at the very least. Make sure to keep up with oil/fluid changes, check your brakes, etc. Remember that the timing belt is also very important. It should always be changed within the recommended service period. In autocross, your engine will experience high revs and they could be more than an old belt can take. Make sure to check all of your fluid levels, and tires for sufficient tread and pressure before race day.

This one’s important… clean out your car! Remove absolutely everything that you won’t need for race day, and make sure you take everything that you bring with you out before taking your car for tech. As part of tech inspection, officials will check the interior of the car to ensure nothing is loose in the vehicle. Loose items can end up flying around the car while you’re out on the course, which is dangerous. You may also want to wash your car and the engine compartment if you haven’t recently.

Just before you get to the autocross site, it may be a good idea to pump up your tires to 42 psi or so. It sounds high, but you will need the extra air to prevent rolling over onto the sidewalls during spirited driving and hard cornering. If you’re a novice, just ask fellow drivers at the site how much air you’re likely to need. Then just let out enough air until you reach that pressure. It’s much easier to let air out than it is to pump it in!

What do I do when I get there?

When you get to a Susquehanna SCCA Autocross event, the first step is to find a place to park. If you’re not sure where the paddock is located, simply watch where other competitors are parking and find a spot. Make sure to empty everythingout of the car including your floor mats and anything else that isn’t held down tight. Then, make your way to registration with your SCCA membership card and license where you’ll get assigned numbers if you don’t have your own. You’ll also receive your worker assignment for the event and sign the waiver to get yourself a wristband. After you’re done at registration, affix your numbers to your car using painters tape. Then make your way to tech inspection with your helmet to get your car teched. Really, though, the most important thing you need to do is just show up on time and be ready to have fun!

What can I expect at a tech inspection?

Cars are checked for safety at each event, before your first run. Tech inspection is performed by experienced autocross drivers or committee members, and the inspection is friendly. Your car must have a working seat belt, working brakes, a secure battery and tight lug nuts. It also must be empty of anything loose, and the inspector will shake your tires to ensure your wheel bearings don’t have play. They’ll also take a look at your street tires to ensure they have measurable depth with no cord showing. Really, any street car in reasonably good condition should pass this quick inspection without any trouble.

Do I have to join the club to run in autocross?

No! Annual membership is not required. You can choose to pay a weekend membership fee of $10 to participate as a non-member. However, membership in Susquehanna (and national) SCCA does have it’s benefits including event fee discounts, newsletter subscriptions, etc.

Who do I need to contact to voice my opinion?

The Susquehanna SCCA meets the fourth Tuesday of every month, except December. Meetings are held at Gilligan’s Bar & Grill on Eisenhower Blvd. In Harrisburg, and all members are welcome and encouraged to attend and be heard! Contact any board memberfor more information.

 


 

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